Serving the Community:  Our Project Work

The Family Advocacy Clinic offers high-impact legal services to the community and powerful learning opportunities for students through the clinic's "project" work. In projects, students represent community groups and non-profit organizations in a variety of ways, such as studying legal and public policy problems, designing advocacy campaigns, drafting legislation, or facilitating strategic planning. Projects challenge students to find creative solutions to complex or ill-defined problems that have no clear litigation remedy, to understand how lawyers might have a role in solving such problems, and to take into account the textured social and political aspects of complex socio-legal issues. The clinic primarily takes on projects that are identified by community groups and organizations - as a result, our project work is community-based, relevant, and timely.

If your community group or organization is interested in becoming a project client of the Family Advocacy Clinic, send an email to The clinic typically handles four projects per year, two in the spring and two in the fall.

Current Projects: Fall 2014

Mothers in the Criminal Justice System Project: Investigating Law, Policy, and Practice

In this project, a team of students is working with the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) to investigate the experiences of mothers and their children when mothers are involved in the criminal justice system.  The context of this project is the high number of women in jail and prison in Oklahoma, which incarcerates more women per capita than any other state in the nation.  The majority of women involved in the criminal justice system in Oklahoma are mothers of minor children and the vast majority of women in prison are sentenced for non-violent or drug-related offences.  GKFF has asked the student team to explore what happens to a child and to a mother’s relationship with her child as the mother moves through the criminal justice process.  Ultimately, the team will offer analysis and recommendations to improve existing systems and guide GKFF’s future work on this issue.

Domestic Violence Court Project: Assessing the Effectiveness of New Systems and Practices

A student team is assisting the Tulsa County District Court in its work to develop Oklahoma’s first integrated Domestic Violence Court (DV Court).  The new court will change how Tulsa County’s judicial system handles situations where intimate partners are involved in multiple civil and criminal matters related to the same underlying issues of domestic violence, in part by bringing certain related legal matters before a single judge.  The District Court has asked the student team for help with a critical question facing any system in a reorganization: how to measure success?  In this project, the team will draw on research and best practices from other jurisdictions, gather information from local stakeholders, analyze relevant legal, procedural, and policy issues, and ultimately develop recommendations to guide the District Court in assessing the effectiveness of the new Domestic Violence Court. 

Past Projects: Spring 2014  

Debtors’ Prisons in Tulsa County? Assessing the Use of Imprisonment as a Penalty for Failure to Pay Legal Debt

In this project, a team of Family Advocacy Clinic (FAC) student attorneys represented members of the Oklahoma Assets Network (OAN) including the ACLU of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Policy Institute, and YWCA of Tulsa.  The project was the result of OAN members' concerns following a November 2013 Tulsa World story that examined Tulsa County's practice of jailing individuals who fail to pay court costs and fines assessed in the context of criminal adjudications. The story raised a serious legal and policy question: Is Tulsa County operating a debtors' prison? OAN members wanted to know more about the issue and reached out to the FAC for assistance. In spring 2014, an FAC student team analyzed the legal framework governing Tulsa County's ability to imprison an individual for failure to pay legal debt. The team also conducted original research into the existing policies and practices in Tulsa County.

In April 2014, the student team completed a report that describes key findings and offers recommendations for Tulsa County to improve policy and practice related to the assessment and collection of court costs and fines in criminal cases in Tulsa County. 

Read the report: Assessing the Cost: Criminal Fines, Court Costs, and Procedure versus Practice in Tulsa County. 

Listen to StudioTulsa's 6.18.14 interview with Anna Carpenter and Quinn Cooper about the project

Family Safety Center: Developing Strategies for Managing Professional Ethics and Other Obligations in a Multi-Disciplinary Domestic Violence Agency

In this project, a student team from the FAC worked on behalf of the Family Safety Center (FSC), a Tulsa-based non-profit organization that oversees a collaboration of private and public agencies that provide services to domestic violence and sexual assault victims.  In this project, the student team developed strategies to help the FSC maximize the strengths of its multi-disciplinary, collaborative model while effectively managing the challenges that arise when professionals from different disciplines work together to serve the same population. The project involved intensive research, as well as legal and policy analysis, and culminated in a set of recommendations to guide the FSC and its agency partners in successful collaboration and service delivery.